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Hanging On to Healthy Pregnancy Habits -- For Good!

During pregnancy, I swapped my journalist's diet (reheated coffee and Snickers for dinner, anyone?) for fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water -- and a day didn't pass without a 30-minute brisk walk. But after the birth of my daughter (and 21 months later, my son), I found myself fueling up with a cup of Starbucks and a Krispy Kreme just to watch the kids crawl around at Gymboree. I was irritable, exhausted, and nostalgic for how great I'd felt during pregnancy. And then it hit me: It wasn't just the hormones that kept me energetic -- it was my pregnancy lifestyle.

Pregnancy is one of a few windows of opportunity when women make significant changes to improve their health, says Raul Artal, M.D., professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri. (The others include after an osteoporosis diagnosis or a heart attack.) But after childbirth, many women -- overwhelmed and exhausted -- abandon their healthy regimens. Here's how to hang on to those good-for-you habits.

Pregnancy keeper: Mini-meals and snacks

Why: Frequent little meals keep your energy level up and your mood and blood sugar stable after the baby is born, says Debra Waterhouse, R.D., author of Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell After Pregnancy. Tempted to cut back on calories so you can fit into your jeans? Don't. Waterhouse's stats show that women who diet postpartum retain twice as much weight as women who don't.

Good habit helper: Stock up on healthy snacks (fruits, easy-to-eat vegetables, whole-wheat crackers, and cheese), and while your baby naps, prepare small bags to carry with you. Identify your "energy food" -- the one healthy snack that always gives you a boost -- and make sure it's on hand. Good ones to try: peanuts, bananas, energy bars, and yogurt.